James Cleverly has introduced a set of strategies aimed at reducing the influx of migrant workers and their family members into the United Kingdom. This will make it significantly more challenging for employers to hire foreign personnel, particularly in the fields of healthcare and social care.
The home secretary proposed a five-part strategy that includes increasing the minimum salary for a skilled worker visa to £38,700 and eliminating the rule that allows certain professions to be hired at 20% below the standard rate.
The move, which the government estimates will help reduce net migration by 300,000 a year, marks an attempt by Cleverly and the prime minister, Rishi Sunak, to rescue the Conservative party’s flagging reputation for controlling immigration.
However, specialists caution that this action may also result in additional disorder within the already overburdened healthcare industry and harm the UK’s potential for long-term growth.
On Monday, Cleverly expressed to MPs that the current level of migration is excessive and must be reduced. He stated that the situation has reached its limit.
He stated: “I am pleased to announce that we will be implementing a five-point strategy to further address immigration violations, which will result in the largest decrease in net migration to date.”
Overall, this bundle, combined with our decrease in student dependents, will result in approximately 300,000 fewer individuals arriving in the UK in the coming years compared to the number of people who arrived last year.
In addition to increasing the minimum salary requirement and eliminating the “shortage occupation list”, Cleverly declared that social care employees will no longer be permitted to bring their family members when they relocate to the UK for work.
According to him, individuals residing in the UK, including British citizens, can now potentially sponsor family members to relocate to the UK. However, this is only possible if the person residing in the UK earns a minimum of £38,700, which is an increase from the current requirement of £18,600.
The government has requested that the Migration Advisory Committee reassess the regulations for individuals who have finished their undergraduate studies in the UK.
A representative from Downing Street described the package as “the most extensive control on lawful migration to date”. They also stated, “We are confident that this package will allow us to substantially decrease numbers while still promoting economic progress.”
The plan aims to decrease the influx of people entering Britain, both legally and illegally, and consists of two parts. This week, Cleverly is expected to travel to Kigali to finalize a new asylum agreement with Rwanda. Additionally, ministers are prepared to introduce new laws in an attempt to initiate the government’s plan involving Rwanda.
According to reports, Downing Street had initially planned to unveil a less extreme set of limitations on lawful immigration. However, they succumbed to intense pressure from Conservative members of Parliament and Robert Jenrick, the minister responsible for immigration.
However, Downing Street refuted that the five-point plan was identical to the one that Jenrick had allegedly pushed for the prime minister to implement on numerous occasions in the past few weeks.
According to Christopher Howarth, a previous consultant for the Home Office during Priti Patel’s tenure, the Treasury blocked similar actions while Rishi Sunak was in charge, due to concerns that it would impede economic progress.
“18 months ago, we recommended that the government prioritize these specific changes,” stated Howarth. “However, they faced opposition from multiple government agencies, particularly the Treasury.”
Based on previous modifications to student visas, the Home Office estimates that this will result in a decrease of 300,000 individuals entering the UK.
There will be a decrease of 140,000 individuals entering through student pathways.
There will be a decrease of 100,000 individuals accessing health and social care services.
There will be a reduction of 50,000 individuals entering through alternative skilled worker routes.
The number of sponsored family members will decrease by tens of thousands.
Officials cannot specify the proportion of reduced health and social care visas attributed to fewer workers versus fewer dependents.
There are currently 152,000 open positions for care workers in England. Inspectors of care homes have frequently discovered that insufficient staffing results in residents receiving inadequate and potentially hazardous levels of care.
Martin Green, the CEO of Care England, an organization that represents major private care home providers, cautioned that the government’s actions are creating obstacles for care providers in hiring foreign workers.
The government must act quickly and invest in better pay and conditions to encourage domestic recruitment, instead of relying on international recruitment to solve the social care workforce crisis.
According to Christina McAnea, the general secretary of Unison, the government is risking essential services in order to appease its backbenchers and the far right. However, if government officials addressed the pressing issues and followed through on their promise to reform social care, there would not be such a shortage of workers.
George Eustice, a former Conservative minister, inquired about the potential consequences for the care industry and called on the government to abandon its ineffective skills-based immigration policy.
One concern about a skills-based immigration policy is that it may prioritize individuals in certain fields, such as banking, law, accounting, and economics, even though there is no shortage of these professionals in the country. This can make it challenging to hire individuals in other industries like caregiving, food industry, manufacturing, and tourism.
The Conservative leader of the health select committee, Steve Brine, stated that the number of open positions in adult social care has decreased to 152,000 due to individuals entering the field through the shortage occupations list. Meanwhile, there were 121,000 vacancies in the National Health Service in September. “Which individuals did the ministers seek advice from prior to making their legal migration announcement today?” Brine questioned.
The announcement exceeds expectations and essentially reestablishes the immigration system prior to Brexit, where non-EU workers with specialized skills were mostly required to have degrees.
According to data from the Home Office, the number of visas given to foreign health and social care workers increased significantly to 143,990 in the 12 months leading up to September. These workers also brought in 173,896 dependents.
Earlier this year, the Migration Advisory Committee advised the government to eliminate the shortage occupation list. This was due to worries that businesses in low-paying industries were relying on it to hire inexpensive foreign workers instead of hiring workers from within the country.
In 2010, David Cameron pledged to decrease net migration to the tens of thousands per year. However, the number has remained elevated and has notably increased after Brexit, with the majority of individuals arriving from non-EU nations.
Since the 2016 referendum, there has been a significant increase in net migration, contradicting the claims made by anti-EU Conservatives during the Brexit campaign about being able to control the UK’s borders.
According to Dr. Madeleine Sumption, the leader of the Migration Observatory at Oxford University, the choice by the home secretary to increase the minimum income requirement for families to £38,700 could greatly affect individuals.
According to her, the level of this threshold has been significantly increased and it determines whether British citizens are allowed to bring their foreign partners to reside in the UK.
Although family migration accounts for a relatively small portion of the total, it can have a significant impact on those who are directly impacted by it.
The greatest effects will be on British individuals with lower incomes, especially women and young adults who typically receive lower pay.